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BEA disses IBM WebSphere 5.0

Application server war gets ugly

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ComputerWire: IT Industry Intelligence

The fierce battle between the two top vendors in the application server market, BEA Systems Inc and IBM Corp, has become even nastier as BEA has attempted to deride the latest release of IBM's WebSphere, 5.0. IBM retaliated just as strongly, saying that BEA's arguments over the technical deficiency of WebSphere are simply wrong,

Jason Stamper writes

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BEA threw the first punch days after IBM launched the latest version of WebSphere. Marko Saarinen, product marketing director, EMEA at BEA told ComputerWire that despite IBM's claimed improvements to WebSphere with Version 5.0, there are still significant technical weaknesses compared to BEA's own WebLogic application server.

The first criticism from BEA is with IBM's WebSphere administration server, which enables application developers and systems administrators to manipulate and manage WebSphere. According to BEA, unlike its own administration server in WebLogic, IBM's is a single point of failure.

Saarinen said: "The administration server cannot be a single point of failure. It is needed for configuration, management and more. With WebSphere 5.0 it is a single point of failure, and if it goes down, all processing on that application server goes down."

Not so, according to IBM's Henrik Hedegaard, VP EMEA for WebSphere at IBM. "There are various different versions of WebSphere," he said. "One version doesn't even have an administration server. But for bigger enterprises [and more mission-critical applications], there is a Network Deployment option, with which the administration server is duplicated over the network. It is simply not a single point of failure."

But BEA was not finished. Saarinen's next claim was that if a connection between WebSphere and a database is lost for any reason, then the WebSphere application server needs to be restarted and reconnected. "That's simply unacceptable in mission-critical environments," said Saarinen.

Again, IBM denied that the defect exists. "Not only do we not have that problem in version 5.0, but we did not have it in the previous version, 4.0, either," said Hedegaard. "We have had the ability to do stale reconnection exceptions in 4.0 and it's still there in 5.0." He added that reconnection and recovery is automatic, and requires no intervention from an administrator.

Hedegaard also defended IBM's position regarding WebSphere's support for clustering across heterogeneous hosts and operating systems. Saarinen had claimed that WebSphere was "very restrictive" regarding heterogeneous clustering support, saying that, "clusters must be of the same platform and operating system." But Hedegaard said that customers understood the fact that it, "Becomes impossible to support every possible configuration of hardware, operating system, database and application server."

He claimed that IBM had the technology to offer heterogeneous clustering, but argued that customers don't want to mix and match platforms in an application server. "You don't want to cluster NT systems with a mainframe," he said. BEA claims to support heterogeneous clustering across platforms and operating systems.

The latest round of criticisms and defenses comes as the battle to win market leadership in the application server market becomes fiercer. Some analysts have already said that IBM has gained sufficient ground on BEA's application server lead for the two to now be considered joint market share leaders. Other studies have shown BEA to have retained a lead. BEA also argues that the market share figures from analysts are little more than guesswork because IBM does not split out accurate revenue figures for its WebSphere division, and the figures it does provide include revenues from non-application server business.

BEA denied that the latest assault on the technicalities of WebSphere 5.0 were a result of increasing pressure from IBM in competitive situations. "We just wanted to set the record straight," said BEA's Saarinen. "We needed to respond to the some of the ridiculous claims from other vendors."

In August, BEA claimed to be winning business against its number-one application server and middleware competitor IBM, despite tough economic conditions. San Jose, California-based BEA said it won more than 210 customers in 220 competitive scenarios against IBM in the Americas, Asia-Pacific and Europe during the financial quarter to July 31. BEA said that in 125 cases it was selected despite the fact IBM's WebSphere was the incumbent platform. This included 93 instances in which BEA's WebLogic was selected for new projects, and 32 scenarios in which WebSphere was removed and replaced with WebLogic.

© ComputerWire

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